§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
, in rising to move for the Minutes of Evidence taken in Court, before the investigators, under the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, and the Report upon which his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has awarded compensation to persons injured and to the families of persons who have been murdered, said, the Motion which he was 1467 about to make was one which he hoped Her Majesty's Government would agree to, because he thought it was all-important that their Lordships and the country should be thoroughly enlightened as to the state to which Ireland had been reduced; with a view, as far as possible, of preventing in the future the terrible crimes which had horrified the whole civilized world from the time the Peace Preservation Act was allowed to drop until the Crimes Act had become law. They had had information furnished to them by the newspapers, they had had debates in their Lordships' House, and in "another place," bearing upon this subject; but much as they knew through these sources of the state of anarchy, bloodshed, and terrorism, which existed in Ireland, from the summer of 1880 until the autumn of 1882, much as they had learnt from the extraordinary revelations made in the late trials which had taken place in Dublin, the evidence taken before the investigators, and their Reports, would throw a light upon the question compared with which every other information they might have received would be thrown into the shade. He was not moving for proceedings of the private inquiries which took place in Dublin Castle, but for the evidence taken in open Court, when the reporters of the newspapers were present. If the Government were satisfied to grant the Papers he required, their Lordships would be able to see the real effect of the Land League conspiracy, subsidized as it had been from America—because, unless it had been supported in America, it could not have existed for any length of time. They would be able to see how that conspiracy was mainly responsible for almost every outrage that had taken place; because, in reading over the evidence which had appeared in the newspapers, he found that nine times out of 10 the crime for which compensation had been claimed could be traced directly to the action of the Land League. The Land League, as Mr. Forster described it, had left its track in letters of blood. Their Lordships would also be able to see—in one respect, at any rate—the operation of the Crimes Act, and how necessary that Act had become, especially as regards the clause for compensation for injury to the person. A fresh light would be thrown upon the effect of this agitation if those Returns were 1468 granted, because he should be very much surprised if their Lordships did not find that the landlords who had been murdered were a very small minority of those for whom compensation was now being claimed; and that by far the larger portion of the real sufferers had been the peasantry themselves. He would not now allude to Mr. Forster's Coercion Act, because the powers granted under that measure were perfectly inefficient to cope with the anarchy which prevailed; and although, as Mr. Forster had told them, he had at one time locked up every possible murderer in prison—yet, as he could only keep them there for a time, and the country drifted from bad to worse, it required no words of his to prove that that measure was not framed in a manner calculated to render it efficient in re-asserting the law. One of the great causes of its failure was the fact that there was no clause provided for levying a fine upon a locality for injury to the person. It seemed to him an extraordinary fact that, while in ordinary times there was a law in Ireland enabling a charge to be placed upon a district by the Grand Jury of a county where malicious destruction of property or injury to animals might occur, there was no provision whatsoever, except under such an Act as was now in force—an Act which was only passed for a time, and for an exceptional state of affairs—to levy a fine upon a district where human beings might be murdered or mutilated. He was sorry to say that the history of Ireland showed, beyond doubt, that waves of crime of this description passed over it at stated intervals; and that even when things were in a settled condition outrages of this description occasionally took place. But there was a very great difference in the number of that class of outrage which had taken place during the time a Coercion Act had been in force with a provision in it such as he had referred to, and times when there had been no power of levying a fine for outrages to the person in the hands of the Executive. He thought that if their Lordships were able to read the evidence which he was moving for they would see that it was an absolute necessity that whenever the present Crimes Act came to an end, and things resumed a more settled condition in Ireland, the clause relating to compensation for injury to 1469 the person should be embodied in a Bill, and become the permanent law of the land. He could not see any argument which could be brought forward by which it could be proved that we should be able by law to compensate for the destruction or mutilation of animals, and by making people in a district pay, preserve the lives of and prevent cruelty to brute beasts, when we did not at the same time attempt, by carrying the principle a little further, to protect the lives and limbs of, and prevent hideous and ghastly cruelties being perpetrated upon, our own fellow-subjects. There was no doubt that a fine levied upon a district was an immense deterrent to crime of this description. In Ireland, unlike any other country in the world, a great part of the population in times of agitation seemed to unite in defying the law and meting out terrible retribution to those who, by obeying the law, had incurred the odium of the district. Not only were the victims who had been marked out for mutilation or slaughter known for weeks beforehand, as was shown by the fact that people had been reported as murdered—place and time being mentioned—which reports had been afterwards proved to be untrue, but the facts of their having been made in two or three different places, at some distance apart, about the same moment was proof that arrangements had been made, which were well known to the whole district some time before, for a man to be murdered at a certain time and place, and that, owing to some lucky accident, the victim had escaped. But, although the population seemed so well informed beforehand of what was going to be done, when a crime actually took place those who were in the neighbourhood became blind and deaf and dumb, and rendered it almost impossible to trace out and bring the criminal to justice, unless there were powers, such as now existed under the Crimes Act, to enable the Executive to do so. There was only one way of enlisting a locality on the side of the law, and that was by making those who lived in it—many of whom were accessories, both before and after the fact—pay heavily for every crime that was committed. But, instead of the present form of levying the fine upon property, it would be fairer to make it a house tax; and thereby make all in the district pay equally, instead of, by 1470 placing it upon property, fining the loyal classes, who needed protection, much more heavily than those who deserved punishment. The advantage of this power of fining had been shown in other ways under the Crimes Act, as the Government had also, under Section 18, the power of charging the extra police upon a district; and he was sure that noble Lords opposite connected with the government of Ireland would admit the enormous advantage that had been derived from both those powers of fining, although the former power would be sufficient in ordinary times. No doubt, there were many other provisions of the Crimes Act which assisted materially in preventing such outrages; but no one would wish to permanently suspend the Constitution in Ireland—no one would wish that a law passed under a most exceptional condition of affairs, giving enormous and necessary powers to the Executive, should be entered on the Statute Book for all time; but the proposal to which he referred could perfectly be rendered permanent without infringing one single liberty which the Irish people had the right to enjoy. From the 4th of April, 1870, to the 1st of June, 1880, there were a series of Coercion Acts in force, in every one of which there were powers for levying fines for injury to the person; and though there were a certain number of those crimes committed in each of those 10 years, and though, in 1879, when the Land League was first inaugurated, this class of crime largely increased—yet, taking all those 10 years, from the 4th of April, 1870, to the 1st of June, 1880, and adding all the outrages together, there were not as many committed as during the short period from June, 1880, to September, 1882, when the Crimes Act, with a clause in it of this description, really came into force. In the 10 years and two months during which there was power to levy a fine upon the locality, there were 511 of those crimes; during the two years and three months, from June, 1880, to September, 1882, there were 554. At that date the Crimes Act came into force; and from September, 1882, to May, 1883, they numbered only 32. No doubt, it was true that during the two years when these crimes were most numerous there was an exceptional condition of affairs. He would not go into the question of how that exceptional condition was 1471 brought into existence; but if, during all that terrible time, the Government had possessed one of the powers they should always possess, that of placing a fine upon the locality, instead of allowing matters to drift and using no power at all, many of those outrages would never have been committed. It might be said that it was not fair to compare the number of crimes which had taken place since the passing of the Crimes Act with those which took place during the two years before, because there were other powers under the Crimes Act which had been as potent as that of levying a fine upon the locality in preventing injuries to the person. No doubt that was true; and, thanks to the able and energetic manner in which the present Lord Lieutenant and Chief Secretary had administered that Act, and to the firm and impartial conduct of the Judges, and the pluck and determination of the juries, who, carrying their lives in their hands, acted up to their oaths, undeterred by outrage or terrorism, there was now some hope that, at any rate on the surface, things were distinctly on the mend. But was it not deplorable that, after all that had been done in answer to agitation, after the thousands and thousands of pounds that had been robbed from the Irish landlords to pacify the Irish tenants, it should require a Crimes Act like the one in force to render things even quiet upon the surface, which, he believed, was all that they were at present? One would imagine, from a speech delivered the other day by the Lord President, that he believed that the Land Act was the greatest boon to the Irish landlords, as it preserved to them the small semblance of property they had left, and placed their lives, to a certain extent, out of peril. The Irish landlords did not thank the Government for that so-called boon. They considered that their properties should have been preserved to them without such a sacrifice, and that neither their lives nor what was left of their properties were one whit more secure by the passage of that measure, because it was not the Land Act which had done anything towards the re-establishment of law in Ireland. That Act, which would be a fertile source of agitation and outrage in the future, would have exaggerated the terrible state of affairs in Ireland, if things had 1472 not culminated in the murders in the Phoenix Park and the Crimes Act had not been introduced. Many persons were under the impression that it was the landlords or their agents' lives which were mostly attacked. It was nothing of the kind, and that was one of the reasons why he wished for these Returns. Only a small number, comparatively speaking, of landlords or agents were attacked compared with the number of farmers or labourers, who had nothing to do with the landlords at all, who were murdered or mutilated. He had found great difficulty in getting information bearing on this point; for though by the Government Returns there were 522 outrages against the person committed from June, 1880, up to the present date, compensation had only been demanded by 137, and as the status of these persons was not mentioned in the Returns, he could only name, and that possibly not accurately, the status of those 187 persons. But there was a letter which appeared in The Times some time back by Mr. Arnold Forster, who had every opportunity of arriving at a correct estimate of these outrages, which would throw some light upon the question. From January, 1880, to September, 1882, Mr. Arnold Forster said there were 10,058 agrarian offences reported; and of purely agrarian murders—not including the Dublin crimes—there were 57, 25 of which were farmers or sons of farmers, 10 labourers or herds, 11 persons of various occupations unconnected with the landlords, one a magistrate—and murdered as such—and only six bailiffs, agents, or process-servers, while out of the 57 four only wore landlords. Again, there were 145 cases of attempted murder, the majority being more or less dangerously wounded, out of which 62 were farmers, 19 labourers, and 22 bailiffs, agents, or process-servers, 10 only being landlords. And out of 322 cases of firing into dwellings, 33 only were against the landlord class or its dependents. Thus it was not the landlords, as was generally supposed, but the poorest and most defenceless class in Ireland, who suffered by far the most by the impotence of the Government, and the heartless, revolting cruelty of the Land League. He hoped the Government would consent to lay the evidence and Reports upon the Table. He could not understand that there 1473 should be any objection to the production of these Papers, because he held in his hand a copy of the directions given to the investigators, by which it would appear that, although there were no shorthand-writers present, yet the fullest Returns were required to be sent in to the Lord Lieutenant, and that the investigations went on in open Court. The noble Marquess concluded by making the Motion of which he had given Notice.
§ Moved, "That there be laid before this House, Minutes of Evidence taken in Court, before the investigators, under the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act, and the reports upon which His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland has awarded compensation to persons injured and to the families of persons who have been murdered."—(The Marquess of Waterford.)
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, he hoped the noble Marquess would excuse him if he did not discuss the Land Act on the present occasion, or even deal with the Crimes Act, though, as to that Act, he very much agreed with much of what he had said, especially as to the part of it to which his Motion referred—namely, the system of levying compensation for crimes or outrages upon the district in which they occurred. He was entirely at one with his noble Friend as to the necessity of the provision. He also agreed with him that it would form a very fair subject for consideration, when the time came, whether that provision might not be made a permanent one in Ireland. However, that was not the question immediately before the House. The question was whether it was advisable in the public interests to lay before Parliament confidential Reports, accompanied by the notes of the evidence which had been furnished by the investigators under the provisions of the Crimes Act to the Lord Lieutenant, in order that he might administer that part of the law according to his discretion. The noble Lord expressed a strong hope that the Government would accede to this request; but he was bound to express a hope quite as strong that the noble Marquess and the House would not press for the production of those Reports. He would ask the House to remember the nature of these investigations, and the duty of the Lord Lieutenant in connection with them. That duty had been, and was, a very peculiar and very delicate one indeed. He was 1474 left absolutely by the Act, after being furnished with the Reports of the investigators, together with the notes of evidence taken by them, with the discretion of forming his judgment upon those materials, and deciding what compensation should be levied on the district. That, undoubtedly, was a matter of no little difficulty. It entailed a variety of considerations, which he had no doubt it was often not very easy to reconcile. The Lord Lieutenant had to consider the nature of the crime itself, the guilty knowledge of the inhabitants of the district, and their connivance in the escape of the criminal, the status of the applicant, the amount of injury inflicted upon the family of the murdered man, and so on. All these matters had to be weighed by the Lord Lieutenant, who then came to a decision as to the amount of compensation to be imposed. It was distinctly announced and thoroughly recognized, when the Bill was passing through Parliament, that that duty was to be performed in the only way in which it could be performed—namely, at the absolute discretion and on the sole responsibility of the Lord Lieutenant himself; and it never was contemplated for a moment that means would be taken, such as were now being taken by his noble Friend, to obtain Parliamentary Returns of this character, which might, and probably would, be used to challenge and question the decisions of the Lord Lieutenant. That would obviously be the effect of such Parliamentary Returns being made, and he could hardly conceive anything more mischievous to the public interests. The objections that he took to this proposal were those not only of the Government here, but also of the Government in Dublin. The Reports were really of a confidential nature. He was perfectly sure that if Parliament had any idea that these Reports and notes were to be published as Parliamentary documents, this part of the Act would not have taken the shape it did, and this responsible duty would not have been placed absolutely at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant. What would the result be of making these Reports Parliamentary documents? It would lead to the challenge of the decisions by anyone in any way affected by them, and would furnish ample materials for mischief to anyone who was 1475 inclined to make mischief out of them. He thought there were very strong and evident grounds of public interest and advantage why so unusual a course should not be pursued.
THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
said, he could quite understand that some of the evidence and confidential Reports should not be produced; but lie was not at all sure whether it would not be for the public advantage, and for the advantage of the Lord Lieutenant, that some daylight should be thrown upon the nature of these Reports. The very secrecy of the proceedings invested these transactions with a large amount of unpopularity. He begged to suggest to Her Majesty's Government that certain extracts from these Reports should be published, sufficient to justify the action of the Lord Lieutenant. He entirely concurred, from his experience in Ireland, with the remarks which had fallen from the noble Marquess. There was no question that in Ireland, if crime was to be repressed, the most successful manner in which that could be effected was by bringing home to the conviction of the people the fact that if they connived at crime they would have to pay for it. He believed this method of dealing with crime in Ireland was far more successful than any other that could be adopted. It was, indeed, with the utmost regret that at the time Her Majesty's Government came into Office he found they wore prepared, in such a very light and flippant manner, to abandon the provision of the Peace Preservation Act giving a power of levying compensation for injury to person and property upon disturbed districts; because the very knowledge of the existence of the machinery for levying this compensation had a most wholesome deterrent effect. He thought it would be possible for the Government to agree to a modification of the Return asked for, still giving the various particulars which would be useful to the House and the country. If they could, in addition, furnish extracts from the Reports upon which applications for an increased force of constables for disturbed districts were based, it would be an advantage. Some such Return would probably show that these crimes had been instigated by the emissaries of the Land League—those persons who, from the very outset, had been organizing and inciting to crime in 1476 Ireland—and also show that not the landlords only, but the poorest of the population, had been the greatest sufferers by those crimes.
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, he would be able to supply a Return which would probably go a long way to meet the suggestion of the noble Duke. This Return would give, for example, the name of the applicant, with a description of his condition in life, the nature of the crime, the injuries inflicted, the amount of compensation awarded, and the amount of charge on the district. This would supply the information specially desired by the noble Marquess and noble Duke as to the classes which had been the chief sufferers by the outrages in question. As to furnishing extracts from the Reports, however, he felt great doubt whether they could be supplied with advantage to the Public Service.
THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
Will the noble Lord add to the Return the contents of the warrants now laid before the House, imposing the charge for additional constabulary, and the statement of the particulars in each case?
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, there would be no objection whatever to including these warrants in the tabular statement.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
asked whether it would not be possible to give a statement showing the effect of the grants for compensation upon the rates in the districts?
§ LORD CARLINGFORD (LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL)
said, he quite thought so; but he would consider the point, and see what could be done.
§ THE MARQUESS OF WATERFORD
said, he would withdraw his Motion, on the understanding that the Government would furnish the Return promised by the Lord President of the Council. He, however, reserved to himself the right to move for these Returns later in the Session.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.